Call of Duty: Ghosts Hands On Impression

By Adam Ma on August 16, 2013, 2:06AM EDT

A few weeks back we took a look at all the wrong moves Activison made at E3, from the confusing developer interviews to the gameplay trailer that gave away absolutely nothing relevant to any fan's enjoyment to the series. If we had to take away one word to sum up their entire showcase 'dog' would pretty much do it, and critics of the franchise haven't let up hammering Activision or Infinity Ward for their confusing and blithering announcement of the single best selling international franchise of all time.

This week Call of Duty Ghosts has begun its multiplayer world tour, revealing many juicy tidbits that should bridge the strange gap between what we were told at E3 and now.

If you're not sure if any of what they revealed was an actual improvement, are on the fence about purchasing Ghosts or just are looking for more details than the announcement trailer provided here's a full breakdown of the relevant gameplay features that make CoD: Ghosts the best step Infinity Ward has taken with the series yet.

The first major change to the multiplayer is level design, which breaks into two parts: how players explore the terrain and how players are able to interact with it. Character movement has been overhauled to allow a much broader range of action than before, and where players would once find themselves hampered by moving slowly over fences or low walls Ghosts' far more intuitive movement system allows for transitioning over low obstacles without any additional buttons. Running through windows, over tables, or sliding between crates is easy; and more importantly, climbing onto rooftops, cars, or over fences is a fluid and quick affair (though still risky).

To fully make use of this improved movement system the overall level design has received an overhaul as well, as shown through the three playable maps Octane, Strikezone and Whiteout. All three feature multiple buildings to cross through, various vantage points and a multitude of side passages; but more important than having neat places to wander is the depth that comes with careful house, hill or rooftop placement. Choke points were fairly light across each of the three maps and every location had at least two or three means of being reached. As a result the flow of the game kept players on the move even in matches like Domination which encourage a certain degree of camping in order to ensure victory. When players are forced to move because there's no single viable position games naturally become more interesting, and though there will always be a way to bunker in and get an optimal "˜field of death' anyone with even mild knowledge of the map can easily circumvent this.

As mentioned earlier levels are fully intractable beyond simply blowing up glass windows or setting off a car, and knowing exactly how to effect the terrain in a level can swing victory or defeat for a match. Though nowhere near the level of destructibility of the Battlefield franchise, Call of Duty: Ghosts does allow terrain to be removed (or added) in a surprisingly organic fashion. Blowing up the gas station adds the slanted rooftop for extra coverage, blowing up a sign removes it. Most of this happens in the heat of the moment but Field Orders are what players will be really struggling over, as completing them offers anything from knocking out the enemy minimap for a limited time to striking the entire level with a tactical missile that changes the entire layout of the warzone. The changes aren't always subtle but when they happen the map is irrevocably changed, making the environment often times as deadly as the gunfire itself.

Another subtle but tremendous change to the game comes in Killstreaks and Perks, which have been adjusted to fit the new tempo that Ghosts is reaching for. Perks are now tiered based upon how much they offer a player, as are weapons and item upgrades, meaning that players will effectively be purchasing loadouts with a fixed amount of "˜cash' and customizing to suit their individual needs. Whether that means loading up on every single low-cost perk or only using one or two big ones is up to the player, but either way the end result is a loadout with a far more unique solider than the series has ever allowed before.

Killstreaks have been largely gutted to remove the multitude of the air strikes that previously dominated gameplay of CoD titles. Though air support is still going to be available new killstreaks range from placed satellite trackers, tactical knife combat suits, anti-tracking devices, a tracer rocket launcher, and of course Riley the dog (amongst other new streaks). While the new killstreaks may not be as satisfying as dropping a series of airstrikes in rapid succession they're immediately more enjoyable because the game is simply more balanced as a result. When players aren't constantly focused on keeping an eye to the sky lest some harrier punish them for existing. Everyone is free to move around a lot more, and thus enjoy the actual game instead of the AI guided killstreaks.

Overall Call of Duty: Ghosts is still a Call of Duty title, and if you're simply against the idea of a fast paced arcade shooter then it's tough to say if this is the game that will win you over. That being said, Infinity Ward has done more than they ever have before to define the franchise with Ghosts, and it most definitely shows. With a relaxation of bigger killstreaks and a core focus on the gunplay itself Ghosts' new pacing takes it leaps and bounds away from its predecessors, and as long as the same care and attention to detail that was placed in the maps that I was able to experience first hand is placed throughout the rest of the final product there's little doubt that franchise is in good hands leading into the next generation.

Want the flashier, more visual announcement? Check it out below and as always hit up the comments if you've any questions that weren't entirely covered above.

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